By Darren Tinmouth, (@Dazzla84_SSFC) http://www.claretandbluepixels.wordpress.com
At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, Football CFB founder Callum McFadden joined some of my South Shields FC cohorts on an episode of the Mariners Podcast. In that episode, show regular Ronnie Peet made a prediction that the Premier League may want to use the covid pandemic to attempt to push for what they have assumedly wanted for years, live streaming of games.
On Friday (October 9th), news came out of that vision becoming a reality for the month of October.
In that, the Premier League announced that all games not selected by either Sky or BT for live coverage would instead be put forward to a Pay-per-view service provided by the aforementioned broadcasters on their box office services normally used for movies or boxing coverage. What is the cost of this venture, well the best part of £15 per game.
Now this has provoked widespread criticism and calls that this move ‘stinks of greed.’ Why is this? Well those that have bought Season Tickets cannot go to games obviously and also there is the constantly rising costs of subscriptions to Sky Sports and BT Sport. Now there is this cost on top of that to watch games hidden behind a PPV paywall.
When one looks at that bigger picture, one can understand the flak. And I fully support that criticism. In my view, it’s a move that screams of a big cash grab to make the rich even richer. Those that know me know I am a keen supporter of South Shields FC, but my childhood team growing up is Newcastle United
THE NEW NORMAL?
In the perfect world, this should be a cue for fans to take a stand and vote with their TV remotes as well as their wallets, i.e. boycott such a service. But however, this is the Premier League, the most watched and most followed domestic league in world football. For every critic of this move, there’ll be at least one person that is desperate to watch their favourite team enough to fork out the cash to watch the games. That is what the PL are banking on at the end of the day and its more than enough to make the move a lucrative one for them.
And if it is lucrative, then one can bet their bottom dollar that the League will try to milk it for all it is worth in the future meaning this could be the new normal. However this ‘new normal’ could have the opposite effect, i.e. drive fans to attempt illegal ways to stream games which in a way would be the exact opposite of what the Premier League are wanting.
The Premier League have tried this in the past. Remember the early 2000’s? After a trial at a 1st Division game between Grimsby Town and Sunderland, Sky launched ‘PremPlus, a PPV service launched alongside the new highlights package deal with ITV for the 2001-02 season. Chelsea’s opening day 1-1 draw with Newcastle United got the honour of being the Premier League’s first PPV game.
This though did not garner much popularity from the paying public and it lasted just 6 years before new EU rules regarding broadcast contract monopolies forced Sky to end the service and that part of the contract was handed to the Irish company Setanta.
BETTER WAYS TO SPEND YOUR FOOTBALL MONEY
Im sorry if this turns into a bit of a personal plea but there are better ways of spending £15 to get your football fix, and I can think of no better way than to use that money to instead lend your support to your local non-league side, the sort of football institution that right now would need the money way more than the Premier League right now.
For example, look at this tweet in support of Northern League side Heaton Stannington, he takes that £15 it would cost to stream a single Premier League game and put that into the cost of a full matchday experience there, and it pretty much explains it all better than I ever could about.
And if one can’t make these games, then the clubs have their own streaming services at extremely reasonable costs. As a great example, my club South Shields for instance launched their streaming service ‘Mariners Live’ during pre-season which so far has been a great success. And their pricing structure has been far more friendly to the fans than the Premier League have been in their current offer.
Shields basically charge £5 for their stream (terrific value for money in comparison) but if you are a season ticket holder that is unable to attend in person, then a quick e-mail to the club will bag you a free pass for the stream if you want it, a very good offer indeed. The other non-league clubs in the area have similar offers on their streaming services with prices within that £5-8 range.
I would even throw League 1 and 2 clubs into that bracket as well especially as like those in the National League, they’ve been unable to admit fans and therefore, have very little revenue streams themselves.
I’ll be honest, I have no qualms about the Premier League re-introducing PPV services, but the way they have offered them gives the impression that they live in a world of complete and utter delusion.
There was a time when Football truly was the past-time of the working class. When you can get in , in the 1970’s, one could get admission, pick up a programme, have a pie and a pint and still have change left over from a fiver while at the same time, getting the opportunity to watch some of the greats of the era like George Best, Kevin Keegan etc.
Today though, in a time when an Arsenal season ticket can cost the same as a deposit on a brand new car and subscriptions to the likes of Sky Sports and BT Sport making massive dent into monthly budgets, and now this PPV service on top (albeit optional), its making following your team more of an investment than it really should be.
Now this isn’t really a plea to boycott, if one wants to pay the money then fair enough, that’s your choice but if this turns out to be both successful and lucrative, then this could only be the beginning of games being locked behind the PPV paywall.
What a change from when a live game on terrestrial TV on a Sunday was considered the ultimate luxury eh?